The latest version of Norton Ghost copies your whole hard drive and does regular backups as well. At $50 after rebate, it’s cheap, and the best way to go.

Ghost makes disk images. The program has been around for years and has been used by thousands of companies. A disk image is different than

a typical backup procedure, and the difference is important.

If you use a normal backup program, you can back up files, but not programs. Many people back up major programs, like Microsoft Word or Adobe Photoshop, under the belief that they can then run those programs from the backup disk. They can’t.

A normal backup just backs up files, not the registry listings and hidden files required to run programs. A program like Ghost does what’s called “”drive imaging””; it makes a copy of everything on the drive.

Think of it as taking a “”snapshot”” of every sector of the drive it’s copying, and then printing that snapshot onto a new disk. Should your system suffer a ruinous crash or be lost or stolen, you can duplicate everything on it from the image drive.

While this process is thorough, it’s also time-consuming. In fact, it’s very time-consuming if you’re making an image of a large drive. So you don’t want to do that every day. What you want to do after the first drive image is taken is back up only the changes you made to your files. Those are called incremental backups.

Ghost 9.0 comes with a Symantec System Recovery disk, so you can restart a computer or drive from scratch and then copy the image to it. The disk also scans for viruses and checks the drive for bad sectors before permitting the image restore. Ghost 9.0 works with Windows XP or 2000. Web site: www.symantec.com.

CHANGING THE FACTS

We found a couple of small utilities that let you easily change the time, date and other attributes of Windows files. This is a touchy matter, but has its uses.

You can use either of the two programs below to change the date and time that a file supposedly came in, was changed or was sent out. The legal implications are enormous, but it can also be useful as a way of gathering similar files for quick search and recovery.

  • Advanced FileTimer is $15, from Finland, and lets you modify the date and time on photos or any other file. This obviously can confuse the issue of when a photo was actually taken, but it can also be used to synchronize a photo with notes about it made later. The time changes can be backed up by days, hours or single minutes, if you want. It’s available at www.mikasalonen.com.
  • Property Cafe 2.0 is $9 to buy, free to try, and can change time stamps of many files at once. It can change read-only, hidden, archive, index and system attributes and can rename files over a network. We found it at www.download.com.

SCANNING BOOKS

Plustek has a new low-priced book scanner for users who would like to make clean copies without paying for the high-priced equipment used by libraries and universities.

The OpticBook 3600 lists for $250 and eliminates the shadowing and line distortion that almost always occurs near a book’s spine. The scanner can handle only one side of a book at a time, but the results are as clean as if the pages had been physically removed and placed on the scanner glass as flat sheets. For now, the scanner is available only for Windows, and sales seem to be restricted to North America and Europe. However, we went on a search and found you can buy it on eBay. Plustek Web site: www.plustek.com.

THE NUMBERS REPORT

Sometime in July the number of Internet users using broadband (cable, wireless or DSL) rose to 51 percent. So, slightly more than half of all computer users now use the Internet with a high-speed connection.

But, of course, that means almost half of all users still have dial-up connections. That’s not necessarily bad. When the network clogs up with lots of users and traffic, it can be faster to use a dial-up (read “”old-fashioned telephone line””) than broadband. It’s not often, but we’ve seen it happen. By the way: The country with the most users on broadband connections is South Korea, which has around 80 percent.

STUDENT HOUSING

Rent.com claims to have listings for more than 4.1 million apartments near the campuses of 3,600 colleges. If you sign a lease, it pays a $100 bonus. There’s no charge for searching. Cautionary note: Many colleges in big cities are in high-crime neighborhoods, so we wouldn’t rent a place in those areas sight unseen.

BOOKS

“”Best of the Internet, 2005″” by Joe Kraynak; $9 from Que (www.quepublishing.com).

There are several of these Internet summary books, some of them quite large. This one is small, but we like it the best; it’s inexpensive, easy to thumb through and has some good listings. Remember: The Internet is huge, and no catalog of sites is ever complete.

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